Vinny Testaverde is in and Neil O'Donnell is out in a quarterback shake-up that will save the New York Jets $2.75 million against the salary cap and probably assure that Glenn Foley will be the starter.
The release of O'Donnell on Wednesday came two years after the former Pittsburgh Steelers starter signed a five-year, $25 million contract that was supposed to help turn around the Jets.
However, O'Donnell had an 8-12 record as a starter and fell into disfavor last season after coach Bill Parcells took over, and he lost his job to Foley.
When O'Donnell refused to renegotiate his contract recently -- one that was to pay him $6.65 million this season -- Parcells considered other options.
"You have to consider performance and you have to consider economics," Parcells said. "You have to consider those things in making a decision and that's what we are doing."
O'Donnell will still count $2.4 million against the Jets salary cap this season. His release and the signing of Testaverde will save the team $2.75 million.
O'Donnell, who missed much of his first season because of injuries, was informed of the move Tuesday night.
"I was looking forward to coming back this year and showing everyone that I was the starting quarterback, but that won't happen," he said after shooting a 16-over-par 88 Wednesday, a round that fittingly had a bogey-double bogey-bogey finish.
He was not bitter, adding that his strained relationship with Parcells was overblown.
Testaverde, who was released by Baltimore three weeks ago, was contacted by the Jets early last week and met with Parcells on Friday. A one-year, $1.5 million contract that included a $1.2 million guarantee and incentives that could push the deal to $5 million was signed Wednesday, just hours before a press conference at the Cadillac NFL Golf Classic, where all three quarterbacks were playing.
"I turned down over a million dollars (more) to come here, so money is not the issue," said Testaverde, 34, who also was courted by Cincinnati, San Diego, hicago, Jacksonville and Seattle. "I mentioned to Bill a couple of days ago I am here to win a championship ring and that's the only reason why I am still playing."
The Jets also have an option on a second year for $4 million, said Mike Azzarelli, Testaverde's agent. He added Cincinnati offered his client $2.5 million for the 1998 season, but the Bengals wanted a multiyear deal.
Testaverde wanted only one year in case he wasn't starting.
However, he is confident he will be starting for Parcells.
"That's what I told Bill:" said Testaverde, who grew up in Elmont N.Y., just minutes from the Jets training site at Hempstead. " `I am very confident that I'll be your starter.' If it doesn't work out that way I'll respect his decision and I will be ready to play when asked to play."
Parcells wasn't sure whether Testaverde would be able to learn the Jets system before the start of the season, adding that Foley had the edge going into training camp.
While adding that having Testaverde was insurance, Parcells still gave the 12-year veteran some hope of starting.
"If he performs at a level that is obviously better, he'll be the starter," Parcells said. "Glenn is going to get the benefit of the doubt."
In 11 NFL seasons with Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Baltimore, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner has thrown for 29,223 yards, 175 touchdowns and 183 interceptions.
After making the Pro Bowl two years ago by passing for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns, his numbers dropped off to 2,971 yards passing and 18 TDs in 1997. He was waived by the Ravens after the team signed Jim Harbaugh from the Indianapolis Colts.
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